DEAR DR. FOX: I hope you can help us. We have a 2-year-old female cat, Joy, who we adopted with her brother, Charlie, from the Naples Humane Society a year ago.
Joy has developed an allergy this spring. It started as a raised bump. Within two days, it turned into open sores; in fact, she had two sores above her eye. They got nasty looking very fast, so the next day we took her to the vet. Joy was diagnosed with an allergy called eosinophilic plaque, also called granuloma.
The vet gave Joy Depo-Medrol and Convenia. We were told this could be an ongoing problem and that it does show up at around 2 years of age. It took more than a week for her to heal.
A few weeks ago, Joy had a very large spot in front of her ear. We waited a day, and it got worse. We went to the vet again, and Joy got the same treatment. She had some tiny spots on her other ear. Luckily, she's healing quickly.
A few days ago, another bump showed up in the same area. It has not yet turned into a nasty sore, but there is another appearing on the other side, so we are watching it. These sores came up just a few weeks after the last ones, and I am concerned about the frequent use of steroids. The vet tells us there is no cure, and Joy has to be treated this way.
Is there a way to find out the cause of the allergy, and is there a cure for her? We think we could start with food. What about the laundry soap I use on their towels? The cats do go outside -- we have a screened-in patio. -- R.J.F. & E.J.M., Naples, Florida
DEAR R.J.F. & E.J.M: Your letter is one of the few I receive that makes me feel that the attending veterinarian may be off the mark. Fortunately, you included your phone number, so I could telephone you. As I suspected, on your screened-in patio, where your cats are allowed, mosquitoes often bite you. These kinds of lesions in cats (eosinophilic granulomas) can have a complex etiology, but the first consideration is biting insects that the attending veterinarian did not even question.
When I spoke to the letter writers, R.J.F.'s response was, "They did not seem interested in any investigation, just gave the medication." E.J.M. said, "They only treated the symptoms and not the cause."
I surely hope that other veterinarians in your area are not following this treatment protocol and are adding essential preventive measures to keep biting insects -- which can spread heartworm, West Nile and other diseases as well as trigger allergic reactions in animals -- away from companion animals.
Your patio must be made as insect-proof as possible; use one or more fans (which most cats love), and try a safe eucalyptus or lemon eucalyptus hydrosol on your cat's fur to repel these insects. In an emergency, soak a sliced lemon, peel and all, in 2 cups of boiling water; mash it up, strain and use a dab on your cat's ears, neck and back when the insects are out most -- usually early evening. Store the lemon extract in the fridge. Stop the cats from grooming each other and grooming themselves as best you can, since the extract may cause salivation and mild oral irritation. Applying topical antihistamine cream to any bites and adding anti-inflammatory fish oil to their diet on a daily basis may also provide relief.
DEAR DR. FOX: My male cat is 11 years old. He has lost 2 pounds since May. I took him to the vet to get his nails clipped, and after a blood test, his blood urea nitrogen (BUN) level was 48 instead of the normal 14 to 36. His cholesterol was 260 instead of 75 to 220. His platelet count was 181 instead of 200 to 500.
I was told his kidney needed less stress from his food. The vet advised Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function canned food. My cat loves tuna or salmon canned food. This food is made with chicken, and he won't touch it. I tried blending it with tuna, but he won't eat that either.
To give me more years with him, I need to make or find the cat food that's best for him. Is dry cat food good for him? -- P.S., St. Louis
DEAR P.S.: When a cat refuses to eat, even for a few hours, I consider it an emergency requiring immediate veterinary consultation because of the risk of developing sudden-onset fatty liver disease. Your veterinarian should address this issue and should be able to provide recipes for home preparation according to your cat's special needs.
Alternatively, your veterinarian, if unfamiliar with the veterinary nutrition specialists and special diet formulating company Balance IT, should contact them at 1-888-346-6362 and visit secure.balanceit.com.
Many cats and dogs have difficulty accepting the manufactured special prescription diets. And some of those diets are of dubious value.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a serious problem with my beautiful white poodle. He rubs his eyes on the carpet, his bed and the sofa, and he squeals in pain. I have taken him to the vet many times, and he was put on Hills Prescription Diet salmon dry food. He's also been put on antibiotics, and I give him small amounts of Benadryl -- all to no avail. His eyelids are raw. He has had lashes surgically removed three times. I do not know what to do for him. I daub cotton pads with cool water around his eyes daily to help contain bacteria. -- B.L., Naples, Florida
DEAR B.L.: Your dog's condition is very distressing for both of you, and I urge you to seek a second opinion from a veterinary ophthalmologist without delay. Putting water around his eyes could make matters worse. Removing an eyelash or two can give relief, but they can grow back, and when the problem is entropion (turning-in of the eyelids), corrective surgery is the only solution. Certainly, the inflammation and possible eye infection of the eyelids must also be addressed. My concern is that a dry eye condition and ulceration of the cornea may develop, which could ultimately lead to loss of vision.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)